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During Stalin's regime of 1924 to 1953, how did the political situation within Russia affect the output of the prominent composers of the time? Pay particular attention to the works of Dmitri Shostakovich.

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Introduction

During Stalin's regime of 1924 to 1953, how did the political situation within Russia affect the output of the prominent composers of the time? Pay particular attention to the works of Dmitri Shostakovich. 'Only a few episodes in the history of the USSR attracted praise...the cultural splendour of Dmitri Shostakovich'1 Throughout the centuries music has always been a key part of Russian life, and many influential composers have arisen from the country such as Borodin, Prokoviev, Rachmaninoff, Mussorgsky and Tchaikovsky to name but a few. Musical traditions have always been important to the Russian people as many composers have based their music on the numerous cultures that exist throughout the country; such cultures include Jewish, Gypsy, Mongolian, Siberian, Arabic and Turkish. Famous works such as Borodin's "Steppes over Central Asia" are well known for their cultural motifs and style. Although, heavily influenced by culture, compositions were greatly affected by the political situation in Russia at the turn of the 20th century. Shostakovich became the most prominent of all Soviet composers as he was working during a period of immense change, turmoil, and terror. Stalin is renowned for his almost 30 year regime as a Soviet dictator. ...read more.

Middle

Pravda the communist newspaper denounced the opera as neurotic, coarse and vulgar in a vitriolic article headed 'Chaos instead of music'. Shostakovich was made to be an enemy of the people and his music was branded as 'cacophonous' and 'pornographic', Pravda also threatened that the composer 'could end very badly' if he did not mend his ways. From that day, Shostakovich had a ready packed suitcase with warm clothes and some belongings in case the NKVD, Stalin's private police force, ever arrived unannounced. As Stalin's regime strengthened the effect it had on Russian music was immense. For example, there were orchestras without conductors (both in rehearsal and performance), claiming it was a way of becoming socialist pioneers by living a 'life based on equality and human fulfilment through free collective work.'2 There was also a movement of 'concerts in the factory' using experimental objects such as sirens, turbines and hooters, creating new sounds by electronic means. Many believed it would lead to a new musical aesthetic closer to the psyche of the workers. Shostakovich took advantage of this movement and used the sounds of factory whistles to the climax of his second symphony 'To October'. ...read more.

Conclusion

Shostakovich stuck to composing film music and patriotic cantatas for public consumption, meaning he had to keep works, such as the First Violin Concerto and Fourth String Quartet, hidden from the authorities. Only after the death of Stalin could Shostakovich express his true self again, and he was able to freely compose his Tenth Symphony, which later became one of fifteen different symphonies. Shostakovich was able to fulfil his musicality after the Stalin regime. However, it is tragic to think that because of such a strict regime Shostakovich often held back, and it is difficult to know whether or not he would have composed more operas or been more experimental in his style. In 1975 Dmitri Shostakovich died, having survived the most terrifying regime ever to exist in Russia. He became a respected musician, creating influential symphonic works that gave audiences an insight into what life was really like in Stalinist Russia. However, in the absence of the operas that Shostakovich may have written, it is the works of his 15 symphonies and 15 string quartets that have established him as the one composer, unquestionably loyal to Soviet Russia, who has achieved world recognition and status. 1 Russia: An experiment with the people. Robert Service 2 Images of Music Erich Auerbach 3 My Testimony. Dmitri Shostakovich Danielle Hartley 13SD6 ...read more.

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